McGuire Mountain and Lookout, northwest Montana
McGuire Mountain and Lookout is a wonderful hike that is located just 14 miles southwest of Eureka, Montana, in northwest Montana.
The reason I would recommend this hike is that it is not too strenuous, and the views you get from the top are incredible.
There is a small parking area on the right hand side as you arrive (depending on which direction you come from!), and if that happens to be full, there is another small pull out just past there. The hike really is in the middle of nowhere, it is quite a drive to get to the trail head, but it is well worth the drive.
You start out hiking up Little Sutton Mountain, which is made up of fairly easy switchbacks. Unfortunately, the little elevation you have gained in this section, you lose as you go down the saddle between Little Sutton Mountain and McGuire Mountain. Then you have to hike up again to get to the top of McGuire. (Then you have to do the same on your way back – down, and up again!)
A lot of the saddle area and the hike up McGuire Mountain are very open, so you have incredible views of wildflowers and the surrounding mountains while you are hiking.
One of the frustrating things I found with this hike, is that for a lot of it, you can see the McGuire Lookout cabin up on top of McGuire Mountain, but it feels like the trail takes you way around the mountain. It seemed like it went way out of the way. I would think there would be a more direct route, but there does appear to be a lot of rock cliff areas below the Lookout, so I could be wrong. We stuck to the trail, with our dogs and our baby. Just expect to feel like you are going way out of the way to get to the top.
I have heard this trail gets crowded; it was not crowded while we were there. We took our three dogs with us, and only ran into a couple of other people on the trail. It was a beautiful, warm summer day.
We hiked this lookout in June, so the trail was not completely cleared of the downed trees from the winter and spring. I personally would not want to do this hike in bad weather, because it is clear it gets a lot of wind, which knocks over hundreds of trees each year. It would be scary to be there in a bad storm.
The downed trees add a lot to the hike, having to hike up and around all of the logs that cover the trail. This was especially difficult for me because I was carrying my baby. If I hadn’t had her on my back, I would have probably been more inclined to try to climb over the logs, rather than going around.
If you go later in the summer (toward the end of June, and on), the trail should be cleared by then of all of the downfall, which will make the hike a little easier.
You can also rent out the McGuire Lookout Cabin, by clicking here for more information.
There is not a lot of shade at the top, we had to search for a tiny patch of shade to eat lunch in. Of course, the problem with hiking to lookouts is that there is no lake at the end of the trail to dip your feet into. So bring lots of water and sunscreen.
The summit of the hike is at 6,991 feet elevation, which is the tallest in the Salish Mountains, and an elevation gain of 800 feet.
I hope you enjoy your hike to McGuire Mountain and Lookout!!
Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Alex M. Neill
Montana Vacation Blog
DIRECTIONS: The trailhead is a little tricky to find. I found a lot of different directions to it online, but found them confusing – particularly Google’s directions – so basic, that I don’t think that they are helpful at all. Here are my directions (I know there are faster routes to take, but this is the “easiest” to explain, and I promise they will get you there!):
You will drive north on Highway 93 into the town of Eureka, Montana. On your left hand side, you will see the Historical Village. You will turn left right after the Historical Village, right before Riverside Park.
Then you will head over a bridge, over the railroad tracks, and then wind up a hill.
At the top of the hill, turn right onto Othorp Lake Road. Othorp Lake Road will turn into Pinkham Creek Road (you come to a Y, and you will stay to the left onto Pinkham Creek Road).
Keep going up this road … it will feel like a little while. You will pass the Pinkham Creek School, and just keep going.
Eventually you will hit a dirt road, and the road will split off to the left or to the right. You will want to stay to the right, up Road #856.
Then you will continue to drive up (again for several miles), this part of the drive is gorgeous. The open dirt road, with the tall trees towering over you.
Eventually you will come to another spot where the road splits off in 3 directions. The sign will tell you if you go straight or to the right, that that is Road #494. You will want to take the turn to the right on Road #494. There will be signs from there telling you where Road #494 goes (you will stay to the right) – just follow those signs. McGuire Lookout trailhead isn’t far up this road.
You will see a small parking area on your right, and the sign for McGuire Lookout on your left.
UPDATE: A reader provided the following coordinates to help you find the spot where you need to stop to park, hopefully this helps!